Miss Saigon: Highlights from the North American Touring Production

Miss Saigon is one of those musicals that I have been listening to since it began playing in London, and seeing it for the first time on Broadway in 1999 affirmed how and why I love this show. A simple story with a lavish production, beautiful score, and songs that stays in your head for a long time, Miss Saigon continues to be a staple in my playlist, specifically the Complete Symphonic Recording which pretty much let me relive the original production in its entirety.  Much has been said of the show already so I won’t need to do a full-on review because really, playing everywhere for 30 years and just the fact that it is revived on both theatre capitals, has a filmed version, and multiple cast recordings (not counting highlights), Miss Saigon is pretty much established itself.

Emily Bautista and Anthony Festa in Miss Saigon; photo by
Matthew Murphy

But how does the 2018 North American Touring production fare? Without going into spoilers, here are some highlights and points from the show when the tour stopped by in Seattle.

  • The raunch-o-meter went up – from the Engineer to the marines, the Dreamland ladies, the Vietnam bar scene, and red light district of Bangkok it felt very authenticated you can practically smell it
  • The Movie In My Mind became sadder than I last remember
  • Dreamland John seems like someone I would avoid if I was in that bar and him playing a saxophone doesn’t even diffuse it. Second act John, though, is a different story
  • Despite its heavy theme, it’s got it has light moments thanks to The Engineer and his sleaze. Sure, it is uncomfortable humor but with an open mind, it can be easily appreciated
  • There a blink-and-you-miss-it visual moment from Chris just before Why God Why
  • Sun and Moon, a much anticipated number, was satisfying. You’d just feel so happy for them!
  • Goosebumps-inducing orchestrations in The Morning of the Dragon, Last Night of the World, The American Dream, among others
  • Bob Avian’s choreography featured the familiar and with additions by Geoffrey Garratt, just made for really fresh musical staging
  • Tam, with a single gesture, gives something memorable to the audience
  • The Bangkok scene in What A Waste, though not as cluttered as I expected, worked well because it focused better on the performers
  • Kim’s Nightmare is a feast for the senses. From the staging, to the transitions, and, of course, the helicopter manifesting onstage, this much talked-about number will not disappoint
  • The score during the transition from Sun and Moon (Reprise) and Room 317 is a personal favourite and adding a Bangkok street scene made it even better
  • Maybe is a better song for Ellen as it makes the audience feel for her as much as they do for Kim
  • Projecting cash in The American Dream enhanced its showstopper status
  • No matter how much it is anticipated, there’s just no preparing oneself for the final act

To sum it up, the North American Touring production lives up to expectations. It’s not without flaws, however, seeing past those, it is truly a remarkable revival which will be remembered until its next major iteration.

Directed by Laurence Connor with music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., Alain Boublil and Michael Mahler (additional lyrics), and starring Red Concepcion, Emily Bautista, Anthony Festa, Ellie FIsher, J. Daughtry, and Jinwoo Jung, the North Amercian Touring cast of Miss Saigon continues to play at various cities in North America through June 2020 with additional dates to be announced.

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